Thursday, July 27, 2006

back, with new pages

I wrote almost 5000 words while I was away, and I did it while looking at this:

So I guess that proves something about writing away from my comfort zone (that is, my messy desk/office). Also much swimming, some hiking (it's chastening to hike at high altitudes when you're over 50), a little shopping, and communal cooking (3 women in a kitchen!). Here's the view from 8000 feet. If I was a better photographer, you'd be able to see a sliver of blue that is Donner Lake.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

no retreat, no surrender

But I am actually going on a writing retreat, an informal one, at a friend's house in Lake Tahoe (or is that at Lake Tahoe?). I'll be there for a week, writing like crazy, hoping to finish or nearly finish my novel. This makes me feel great trepidation. There's something about the idea of going some place particularly (and only) to write that gives me performance anxiety. I feel more secure if writing is something that has to be tucked in, or even wedged forcibly into a day that has other purposes. A leftover from when I wrote on the dining room table after the kids went to bed.
Maybe this week at Lake Tahoe will allow me to claim my writing in a new way.
Some books I'm taking with me:
Nobody Knows My Name, James Baldwin
The Polysyllabic Spree, Nick Hornby
That damned copy of the Missouri Review given entirely over to Rick Bass that I still haven't finished reading yet.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

beware of theme

I distrust the idea of theme, which seems to me to be a kind of high school English concept, and one that you should forget immediately when you start to write.
But Flannery O'Connor says it far better:
When you can state the theme of a story, when you can separate it from the story itself, then you can be sure the story is not a very good one. The meaning of a story has to be embodied in it, has to be made concrete in it. A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is. You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate. When anybody asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell him to read the story. The meaning of fiction is not abstract meaning but experienced meaning, and the purpose of making statements about the meaning of a story is only to help you to experience that meaning more fully.
I got this lovely quote from Kate's Book Blog.
I've been reading short stories, and it's making me want to write one. Which of course I must not do until I finish the novel.

Monday, July 10, 2006

halfway through summer

More or less halfway. Summer is a precious commodity, and in July I start to feel it slipping away, time speeding up so that the days tick by as if I were on a train, each day one of the little towns you pass through, so small that they don't have a station. I used to take the train to school in Chicago, and I remember feeling sorry for those towns and the people who lived in them as if not having a station said something definitive about their lives and possibilities: I was a goony teenager.
I'm always hoping though that I'll turn out eventually to be a glass half-full person instead of the half-empty type I've been up to now. Half the summer left!
I'm reading Virginia Woolf again, the letters this time, which I haven't read so often as the diaries. I can barely write a letter without putting it off for a month--how did she have time to write those countless volumes of letters and diaries, and still turn out 8 or so novels? (I also can't keep a diary--when I did I only wrote when I was feeling depressed or whiny; and I was never witty, as VW is at the drop of a hat.)
Here she talks (in a letter to Lady Ottoline Morrell) about writing letters with an audience in mind:
Do you think people (I'm thinking of Lytton and Walpole) do write letters to be published? I'm as vain as a cockatoo myself; but I dont think I do that. Because when one is writing a letter, the whole point is to rush ahead; and anything may come out of the spout of the tea pot. Now, if I thought, Ottoline will put this letter in a box, I should at once apply the tip of my finger to the end of the spout.
And here she is on her new car:
I was going to say our car has come--silver and green, fluid fly wheel, Tickford hood... It glides with the smoothness of eel, with the speed of a swift, and the--isn't this a good blurb?--the power of a tigress who has just been reft of her young.
Did I say that I love Virginia Woolf?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

novel writing: the ultimate excuse

Excuse for what? Not to clean or cook, of course. My sister has given me permission not to clean the house until I finish the novel (I guess that had better happen fast, for reasons of health and sanitation). And D is still valiantly cooking his way through the Wok Cookbook.
This morning I was back in Jason's head--I'm quite comfortable in his POV, which maybe should worry me, since he's a little strange and about 30 years younger than I am. But my sister has also given me permission not to worry about anything until I finish the novel, so I'm just dismissing that.
I gave myself permission to read any trashy book I come across (until I finish the novel), and so yesterday I read Michael Crichton's Sphere, which I recommend only if you want something that makes you read bits of it aloud to your unwilling partner so he will see how truly ridiculous it is. I suppose though that if I was in a high-minded mood, I might say that it can be read as an extended metaphor of the perils of the writer's dependence on imagination. Don't read it to find out what this means.
Also, at Crazy Diamond's request, here are pictures of the uncleaned and supremely cluttered living room. Literature comes at a price.

Shoe Repository

Sofa Bookshelf

Yes, those are dead flowers.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

wishful ending

More calendrical calculations: if I'm writing for so many days in July, and doing an average of so many words per day, then the world will be saved, i.e., the novel will be finished.
Today--a love scene. Much easier to write about ghosts than love, I find.